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Winter 1997

Research Magazine > ARCHIVE > Winter 97 > Article

Fashioning Better Textiles
by Catherine Gianaro 

In the East Georgia city of Washington, nearly two-thirds of the waste treated daily in the local sewage plant comes from the local textile mill.

"That's about 1.2 million gallons per day," said UGA textiles scientist Ian Hardin, who is devoted to finding ways to help Georgia textile companies reduce their waste -- and in the process, make the state's industry more competitive.

Hardin's research is part of a broad effort sponsored by the Consortium on Competitiveness for the Apparel, Carpet and Textile Industries, also known as CCACTI. Launched by Georgia Gov. Zell Miller in 1994, the research consortium includes seven Georgia colleges and universities that teamed up to help ensure the state remains competitive both nationally and internationally in textile manufacturing.

The University of Georgia and Georgia Tech serve as leaders for most CCACTI projects; the consortium also includes Georgia Southern, Dalton College, Southern Tech, Valdosta State and Columbus State University.

The goal is to protect or even increase the 160,000 jobs held by Georgians in the textile, apparel, and carpet industries. For textiles, that is especially challenging in light of technological improvements in the industry.

"The textile industry is producing more fabric than ever, but with a lot fewer people," Hardin said. "What used to be a labor-intensive industry has survived by becoming highly automated. It is far more capital-intensive and high-tech now."

During the past two years, the CCACTI-sponsored research has helped:

  • reduce the amount of salt that is used in dyeing cotton cloth;
  • study the effects of salt on plants and animals that live in the water;
  • determine the amount of metal that escapes into the water system frommetal-containing dye; and
  • find ways to neutralize excess dye more efficiently so that the effluent water isn't colored.

A network of research projects is taking place across the state. In one, Patti Annis and William Tolner of UGA's textiles, merchandising and interiors department have been working with Fortsmann and Company in Dublin and Avondale Mills in Monroe to help them use composting to convert solid waste from their manufacturing into useable, sellable products.

"The overriding goal of our department is to create ways for textile manufacturing to be highly compatible with the environment," Hardin said. "The application of biotechnology, such as in the sophisticated composting work, is an essential part of that approach."

Other CCACTI projects include:

  • J and J Carpets of Dalton, where UGA and Georgia Tech researchers are trying to reduce the chemical and biological oxygen demand of effluent before its sent to a waste treatment facility;
  • Springs Mill in Griffin, where researchers are implemeting closed-loop processing (a process that recirculates the water) with the goal of totally reusing and recycling the water used in dyeing and finishing processes; and
  • A formaldehyde-free, wrinkle-free finish for pants, being developed by UGA researcher Charles Yang, that will be more environmentally friendly than products currently being used.

The effect of waste water on plants and animals in streams and rivers is a concern for textile industries throughout Georgia, Hardin said. "Through our work on toxicity evaluation and helping industry discharge cleaner water, we are helping both the industry and the citizens of the state," he said.

Altogether, 12 UGA faculty members are involved in several CCACTI projects.

"This is a major service effort on the part of UGA and the other colleges and universities involved in CCACTI," Hardin said. "It is a unique opportunity to have an official connection among the industries, academe and the governor's office for the benefit of our state's major manufacturing concerns."

For more information, access http://www.fcs.uga.edu/tmi/ccacti/index.html.

Catherine Gianaro is UGA's assistant director of research communications and assistant editor of Research Reporter. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida College of Journalism and Mass Communication.


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